Friday, April 18, 2014

Palo Brunch -- Disney Cruise Line

My husband and I dined at Palo for brunch on our most recent cruise on the Disney Dream.  Palo is an adults-only restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine on the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy.  Palo serves dinner every night from 6 to 9 pm, but only serves brunch while the ship is out at sea during Disney four night and longer cruises.  The dining charge is $25 per person for brunch.  You can read my review of Palo for dinner here.  

After having a huge dinner at Palo the night before, my husband and I weren't too excited to go to Palo for brunch.  We had already been overeating for three days at that point and were a little wary of eating another big meal.  

As it turned out, our brunch at Palo was my favorite meal of the cruise.  We were excited to have Alex as our server again, and to have some quiet time without the kids, enjoying these beautiful ocean views.  

My brunch started with a complimentary mimosa, then Alex found the chef, who gave me a tour of the buffet and talked to me about the gluten free options.  

The chef told me that they could make me any of the pizzas on an Udi's pizza crust.  

I didn't take a picture of the table filled with pastries and fruit, which was off limits because of gluten or cross contamination concerns, but I was offered fruit from the back if I wanted it.  I could have anything on the table pictured above, which contained shrimp, smoked salmon, crab legs, seared ahi tuna with arugula salad, Bloody Mary shots with baby shrimp, roasted potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and sea scallops.  

The next table was also full of gluten free choices like Italian meats, Caprese salad, eggplant wrapped feta cheese, marinated olives, hummus, grilled vegetables, marinated artichokes, and prosciutto wrapped melon & asparagus.  

This large table also had lettuce, dressings, caviar, grated egg yolks & egg whites, and chives & shallots to choose from.  

The next display contained sample meals that could be made up for us in the back, like seared tilapia and risotto, and smoked salmon or pesto pasta dishes.  

The chef said he could make me gluten free pancakes, or any of the egg dishes with gluten free bread.  

I would have loved to have tried the chilled strawberry soup, but I forgot about it until after we had eaten dessert, and by then, I was too full.  

While the chef made some dishes for us in the back, I enjoyed a plate of grilled vegetables, marinated olives, Caprese salad, and some Italian meats.  I added a little hummus or pesto to almost everything on my plate, and enjoyed it all!  

I also liked the roasted potatoes and the eggplant wrapped feta.  

Palo's gluten free pizza is pretty impressive.  It was good both hot and cold.  

My husband and I ordered half Margherita and half spicy Italian sausage.  

When our gluten free spaghetti with pesto arrived, I must admit that I was a little bit skeptical because of how heavily it appeared to be sauced, but it was delicious, especially eaten right on top of my Margherita pizza.  

I was shocked when my husband said that the seared tilapia and risotto might be his favorite fish dish of the cruise.  Usually, he ranks ahi tuna above everything else.  

The piece de resistance of this meal was definitely the desserts.  Everything else was delicious, but the desserts were just amazing!  The pastry chef told me that three desserts from the dessert table were gluten free, and of course I had to try them all.  I started with the Chocolate Pot de Creme, which was ridiculously good.  Usually, I like vanilla ice cream or whipped cream with my chocolate desserts, but this pot de creme was perfect as is.  Next, I tried the mixed berries compote, made with Grand Marnier.  I could eat this for dessert every day.  I love berries, and this was such a nice, light treat.  Palo's pastry chef then wowed me again with the vanilla & mango panna cotta.  They were all so good, I wanted to go back to the dessert table and have seconds of all of them, but I settled for just the mixed berries compote, because it was the lightest of the three dishes.

When we take our next cruise in December, my husband and I will definitely be going back to Palo for brunch and dinner, but this time on the Disney Magic.

Reservations for Palo can and should be made once your cruise has been paid in full and you reach your booking window.  You must be at least 18 to dine at Palo for brunch or dinner.  We received reservation confirmation cards for Palo on the first day of our cruise, that contained the reminder that dress pants and shirt are required for men, and no jeans may be worn.  Disney Cruise Line's website and my travel books do not state the hours of brunch, but seatings start at 10 am and run through at least 1 pm.

Related blog posts:

Palo Dinner

Disney Cruise Line Gluten Free

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Palo Dinner -- Disney Cruise Line

My husband and I dined at Palo on the Disney Dream for both dinner and brunch on our most recent cruise.  Two years ago, we also had dinner at Palo on our 10th anniversary cruise.  Palo is an adult exclusive restaurant located on the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and the Disney Fantasy.  Reservations are required for dining at Palo, and there is a $25 dining charge per person.  Men are required to wear dress pants and a dress shirt, while women have to wear a dress or pantsuit.  Jeans, shorts, capri pants, tennis shoes, and flip-flops are not allowed.  

Mitch and I checked out the wine list on Meridian's outdoor deck while we waited for Palo to open.  Meridian is an adults-only lounge located between Palo and Remy, the two adults-only restaurants on the Disney Dream.  We ate at Remy on our anniversary cruise, and had the best meal we have ever eaten.  The dining charge for Remy is $75 per person.  

Palo means pole, and is named after the long poles used in Venice by gondoliers.  Look up when you enter the restaurant to see the lighting inspired by spaghetti and meatballs.  

All of the tables in Palo have an amazing view of the ocean.  

The cuisine is northern Italian, which is right up our alley.  We love our Italian heritage, and cooking and eating Italian food!  

For the bread course, I was served Udi's pizza crust cut into wedges with some basil.  My meal was off to a good start!  You can view my recipe for making rosemary and garlic flatbread with Udi's pizza crust here.  

Our server Alex then brought around the antipasti cart, and made us this beautiful plate of Italian meats, Parmesan with a balsamic drizzle, olives, artichokes, and roasted red peppers.  I could eat antipasti every day of the week!  

I considered ordering the mozzarella caprese, but we make Caprese Salad frequently at home, so I chose the Tuscan white bean soup with prosciutto and parmesan cheese.  It was incredibly delicious, especially the bites with a nice big piece of melted parmesan.  

I also decided to try the Sicilian pesto marinated grilled shrimp on a mussel, crab, and cherry tomato ragu after seeing it served at a nearby table.  These were probably the biggest shrimp I have ever eaten, and everything is definitely better with pesto! 

Before our main courses arrived, we were served a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet with a blueberry.  It was so refreshing and delicious!  

I ordered two main courses, the beef tenderloin Palo for myself, and the wild mushroom risotto with freshly shaved Parmesan and a chianti reduction to share with my husband.  My beef tenderloin was cooked perfectly, and served on a bed of potatoes and spinach.  I enjoyed the balsamic garnish so much, I asked for more balsamic instead of eating the gorgonzola cheese and the barolo red wine sauce that were served on the side.  

I am always tempted to order mushroom risotto at restaurants because of the amazing wild mushroom risotto at Le Cellier in Epcot.  Palo's version did not disappoint, and I wish I could have eaten more of it, but I had to save room for dessert.  

When offered chocolate souffle, I have to order chocolate souffle.  My husband and I discovered our love of chocolate souffle while on our honeymoon in Hawaii.  We ate it at Roy's on Maui and Kauai three times over the course of two weeks, and my husband and I have enjoyed it at Roy's in Orlando as well.   

Palo serves their chocolate souffle with vanilla bean and chocolate sauces, and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Next time, I will be skipping the sauces and asking for more ice cream, because I love the combination of warm chocolate souffle with cold vanilla ice cream.  

We finished off our evening at Palo with a complimentary shot glass full of a mixture of apple brandy, sparkling wine, and lemon sorbet.  It was amazing!  

I had so many gluten free dishes to choose from at Palo.  Only the calamari from the Antipasti, Insalatine & Zuppa portion of the menu was not able to be made gluten free for me.  The cioppino, arugula salad, and mozzarella caprese are options I could have ordered instead of the tuscan white bean soup and sicilian pesto marinated grilled shrimp.  

Alex told me that any of the pasta dishes could be prepared for me using gluten free spaghetti.  On our next cruise, I might order the pasta arrabbiata with spicy fresh tomato and basil sauce, topped with grilled shrimp.  

My husband really enjoyed his grilled tuna served with truffle-infused potato risotto, garlic marinated artichokes, and a tarragon veal jus.  All of the fish dishes could be prepared gluten free.  

The Osso Buco was one of the few dishes that Alex told me could not be prepared gluten free.  From what I remember, the rack of lamb was also off limits, but I could have ordered the baked chicken breast filled with ricotta, basil, and red peppers served with pinot grigio reduction.

Overall, we had an amazing meal at Palo and will be dining there again on all of our future Disney cruises, including our first cruise on the Disney Magic in December.

You can read my previous blog post about dining gluten free on the Disney Dream here.

Next up, I will be writing a blog post about eating brunch at Palo, which might have been my favorite meal of the cruise.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quick Cook Tomato Sauce

My Italian grandmother, and my mom and aunt made old school, cook all day tomato sauce for pasta when I was growing up.  I really, really intensely disliked it.  I was always forced to try a little bit when we had pasta for dinner, and was told that someday I would like it.  Well, that day never came.  I didn't eat any kind of tomato sauce until my mom started making this recipe for quick cook tomato sauce when I was an adult.  

I always buy San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe.  They can be whole peeled tomatoes, crushed, diced, or pureed.  

After reading some scary things about canned tomatoes and how their acidity can cause BPA to leach into your food, I have been buying San Marzano tomatoes in a carton from Whole Foods.  

My mom's quick cook tomato sauce starts with some sweet onion, the only type of onion I regularly keep in my house.  

When the garlic browns, I add the San Marzano tomatoes.  

In 20 to 30 minutes, this sauce is ready to go.  

My mom's quick cook tomato sauce recipe is easy to make, fresh tasting, and slightly sweet. I really never thought that I would find a tomato sauce that I liked, but this sauce is so delicious!

Quick Cook Tomato Sauce


1 T sweet onion -- minced
1 T olive oil
1 clove (1/2 tsp) garlic -- minced
26 to 32 ounce can/carton San Marzano tomatoes (whole peeled, crushed, diced, or pureed)
1 T + 1 tsp sugar
kosher salt -- to taste
coarse ground black pepper -- to taste
1 or 2 T fresh basil -- chopped
1 T butter


Saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat in a large fry pan.  When the onion has softened, add the garlic.  Add the tomatoes after the garlic begins to brown.  If you are using whole peeled tomatoes, crush them with your hands as you add them to the pan.

Add the sugar, and a couple of pinches of salt and pepper.  Put a lid on your pan, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.

Before serving, add the basil and butter, and more salt and pepper if needed.  If you used whole peeled tomatoes, you could puree your sauce with a stick blender.

Recipe Notes

I prefer to buy crushed, diced or pureed San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe.

This recipe makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta.  Freeze or refrigerate any leftovers.

When my mom makes this sauce, she cooks up several batches and freezes the sauce in gallon-sized freezer bags.

Quick cook tomato sauce is great with pasta and pizza.  You can read about the gluten free pizza we make with Chebe here.

I use this sauce with several products and recipes on my blog.   Here are some links:

Baked Rigatoni

Deconstructed Beef Ravioli with Penne

Gluten Free Gnocchi

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bacon & Potato Frittata

We had Bacon & Potato Frittata for dinner tonight, but this dish could also be served for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.  

This frittata combines so many of my favorite things, like roasted potatoes, bacon, and cheese.  

I was practically drooling when I added the bacon layer.  Do you know how hard it is not to eat freshly cooked bacon when it is right in front of you?  

Look at all that cheesy goodness on top of this frittata!

We love the crisp layer of egg and cheese that forms on top!  

My husband ranks our Palm Sunday Frittata as his favorite, with this dish and the carbonara frittata we make as a very close second.  I can't decide which one I like the best, because I love them all!  

Bacon & Potato Frittata


1 1/2 lbs potatoes
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
10 pieces of thick cut bacon
10 large eggs
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
2 T grated Parmesan or Romano
2 T heavy whipping cream


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash & scrub the potatoes, then cut them into 1 inch cubes.  On a small baking sheet, toss them with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast the potatoes in a single layer for 30 minutes, turning them halfway through, until nicely browned.

Spread the bacon out on a large baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven on a lower shelf while the potatoes are cooking, and cook for about 15 to 17 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.  Place the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to remove the grease, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the cheese and heavy whipping cream, whisking well.

Lightly grease a deep 9" pie dish with the leftover bacon grease or spray with cooking spray.  Add the potatoes, then the bacon, then pour the egg mixture on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until the egg has set.

Serves 6 to 8

Recipe Notes

The pie dish I use for this recipe is over 1 1/2 inches deep.  Make sure your pie dish is not too shallow.

I use a package of Organic Valley Fancy Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese in this frittata.

I like to use Hormel Black Label Thick Cut Bacon, which is labeled gluten free, and purple potatoes, but I was not able to find organic purple potatoes this week.  I peeled the large purple potatoes seen in the picture, but peeling your potatoes is not necessary.  You can use Yukon Gold, fingerling, russet, or red potatoes in this recipe.  Tonight, I used 4 large unpeeled red potatoes that I weighed on my kitchen scale after cutting them into cubes.  I am anal like that.

I love how pretty the frittata is with purple potatoes.

I have also used organic fingerling potatoes in this recipe, but neither The Fresh Market or Whole Foods had any in stock last weekend.  The frittata in this last picture contains Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes, and I cooked it for 35 minutes at 350 degrees because I also had Palm Sunday Frittata in the oven when I made it.  I will only buy organic potatoes after reading that root vegetables, like potatoes, absorb herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, so even if you peel them or scrub them well, you will not be able to remove all the chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh of the potatoes.